EPSCO Gozo – EU Ministers to hold informal meeting in Gozo

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EPSCO Gozo - EU Ministers to hold informal meeting in GozoMinisters of Employment and Social Policy from European Union member states will be meeting in Gozo on the 10th and 11th of September 2012. The Ministers will exchange views and discuss strategies and policies on how to Enhance Solidarity between Generations through the Active Participation of the Elderly.

The Ministers of Employment and Social Policy Informal Working Group Meeting is being held on the initiative of the Ministry for Justice, Dialogue and the Family and the Ministry for Education and Employment.

Ministers of Employment and Social Policy and/or State Secretaries from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Sweden, the Netherlands and Cyprus have already confirmed their participation.

The meeting in Gozo is expected to focus on the challenges the EU is facing due to the increase in the life expectancy and the resultant growing ageing population.

It is estimated that life expectancy in the European Union has increased by an average of eight years since 1960 and is expected to increase by a further five years over the next four decades. This increase together with low birth rates, means that Europe’s population is ageing fast. A number of major challenges face European Societies in there adjustment to this reality.

In the invitation letter to their European counterparts, Ministers Chris Said and Dolores Cristina remarked that “while it is clear that the inevitable consequence of people living longer and reducing mortality significantly presents us with urgent challenges to reform and adjust our societies in order to ensure our different social models remain sustainable, we maintain economic growth and Europe remains competitive, it also presents us and the European economy with great opportunities which we should be ready to reap.

“We need to adopt a positive approach to tackling the challenges of ageing – we need to keep in mind that ageing societies are, and can remain, prosperous societies. This however requires changes in mentality and approach not only by us policy makers but also by companies and our citizens.

The Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth aims to achieve an employment rate of 75% among people aged 20 to 64 and to lift at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020. Those targets cannot be met – and strong solidarity between generations cannot be maintained – without active ageing. Active ageing seeks to promote better opportunities for older people on the labour market through accessible workplaces and age friendly working conditions and allow them to achieve an adequate income in old age. So we will have to lay much more emphasis on creating better opportunities for older workers on the labour market.

“Employment is not the only form of activity for older persons. Older people have an important role in our society. Many people over 55 are very active in volunteer organisations or providing informal support for friends and relatives. This may involve offering emotional or financial support, or helping with housework, or doing someone’s shopping or childcare and babysitting.

It is clear that the situations in our Member States differ considerably and therefore strategies to promote active ageing have to be adapted to the specific challenges and prevailing attitudes in each country. So there can be no one-size-fits-all strategy for active ageing,” the letter concluded.

The discussion that will take place in Gozo will help the EU member states to learn more from each other’s experience on how to deal with these challenges.

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